FloydDBarber

Mid-Atlantic accent

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Was the Mid-Atlantic, Transatlantic accent used mainly in the early talking pictures? At some point in time it disappeared from most films but in the 30's it seemed that most actresses and a few actors acquired the accent. Were these people from the theater? When did the accent phase out?

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https://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2015/06/that-weirdo-announcer-voice-accent-where-it-came-from-and-why-it-went-away/395141/

 

This article surveys the rise and fall of the "Mid-Atlantic" accent. Most people encounter it these days in films from the 1930s to the 1950s (often by actors who had started on the stage), but it seems to have been associated with broader concepts of status and prestige.

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On 10/21/2017 at 9:41 AM, Polly of the Pre-Codes said:

https://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2015/06/that-weirdo-announcer-voice-accent-where-it-came-from-and-why-it-went-away/395141/

 

This article surveys the rise and fall of the "Mid-Atlantic" accent. Most people encounter it these days in films from the 1930s to the 1950s (often by actors who had started on the stage), but it seems to have been associated with broader concepts of status and prestige.

That's true, many of the mid Atlantic accents of 1930s and 1940s films were associated with the more prestigious characters, notable examples were of course Hepburn, and also Margret Dumont (and the gentlemen she was often with at the start of the Marx films before Groucho won her over), Warren Williams, Janette McDonald, and many others. 

Then there was the loud, nasel, often fast talking New York accent which numerous 1930s film characters had, examples being Ned Sparks, Robert Emmet O'Connor, James Cagney, and of course Edward G. Robinson.

Generally what I've noticed is that the Mid Atlantic accents were usually reserved for characters who were more elite members of society, or were also often butlers and servants. And the loud nasel accents were often with roles of police officers, working class characters, and gangsters (Bogart was also in that category)

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This mid-Atlantic accent was often referred to as "stage diction," and actors were often trained to speak this way. This is one thing that Method acting rebelled against.

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On 1/1/2019 at 5:51 PM, kingrat said:

This mid-Atlantic accent was often referred to as "stage diction," and actors were often trained to speak this way. This is one thing that Method acting rebelled against.

I know how many of us 1930s fans have noticed the mid Atlantic accents such as Katharine Hepburn, Margaret Dumont, Cary Grant, and Donald Cook. But I'm still curious how many of you have noticed how many 1930s films have characters that have the loud, nasal voices with fast talking and quick temper attitudes? Some of the combination's can alter, like Ned Sparks is very nasal and somewhat temperamental, while James Cagney is only somewhat nasal but very quick to temper, and very fast talking, and someone who won't hesitate to knock you across the face at the slightest provocation (and in some of his films not hesitate to shoot you, "Public enemy" being best example of that. In "Taxi", he's also very temperamental and fast talking, but is more into punching someone out rather than shooting, but still does it at the slightest whim (like with David Landau at the bar (for earlier setting up Guy Kibbee to give up his business (and pushed to the ground by Nat Peddleton, who's also tough, nasal, and quick to anger)). More characters fast talking, nasal, and see no problem with not hesitating to fight are David Landau, George E. Stone, George Raft, and (very nasal) Robert Emmett Walsh (also sore, nasal cop in Marx Bros' "Night at the opera", Robert Barrett (Barbara Stanwyk's father in "Babyface"). Clark Gable also shared many of the similar fast talking, quick to temper attitudes, but like Cagney, didn't sound as nasal as some of the others like Ned Sparks, Robert Emmet Walsh, George Stone, etc. Common phrases of each of these mentioned characters were "Scram!!!", "Why...you (or "that") lousy, no good, dirty..!!!", "Hey!!! what's the idea!!!?", "Whatsamatta!!? Ya yella!!?" (the latter popular with Cagney), "Hey, what's with the dame!?". Other common words and sayings from those types of 1930s films, saying "sore" to mean angry, calling women "Dames", calling an attractive woman a "swell dish" (and "swell" itself beiing a popular word for great ("swell" then was like "cool" is today)). 

I still know of many other examples, but I was wondering if some of you could respond with some other examples.

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Cary Grant's accent was BBC English.

As for fast-talking, you can't get any better than Lee Tracy.

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On 10/21/2017 at 7:41 AM, Polly of the Pre-Codes said:

https://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2015/06/that-weirdo-announcer-voice-accent-where-it-came-from-and-why-it-went-away/395141/

 

This article surveys the rise and fall of the "Mid-Atlantic" accent. Most people encounter it these days in films from the 1930s to the 1950s (often by actors who had started on the stage), but it seems to have been associated with broader concepts of status and prestige.

Okay, I just read Mr. Fallows' 'treatise' (for want of a better word) here, and I have to say I found the follow paragraph of his more than a little off-target in his attempt to explain a part of this linguistic history:

The enormously popular speech styles of Brando and Dean (and I could add Elvis Presley) clearly pushed vernacular style into a kind of mainstream acceptability, then desirability. Just in time for the Sixties, with all their other pressures towards some kind of anti-Eisenhower authenticity. (Did Eisenhower speak the newsreel style? A little before my time, but Kennedy certainly didn’t, even if his vernacular was more formal than Brando’s.  His high Boston accent might have been heard as an influential transitional hybrid, and it’s interesting how prominent parodies of the speech of Brando, Dean, and Kennedy were at the time: seems a sign that we were noticing a marked change.

Nope, sorry Mr. Fallows, but first, Kansas-bred Dwight Eisenhower's speech was MUCH more "rhotic" and thus as you put it, "vernacular" in style, than the Bostonian John F. Kennedy's ever was. And thus making JFK's speech much more in the "Mid-Atlantic" style than Ike's ever was. And thus again, making JFK's speech much more "old school" than the actors Brando and Dean whom you attempted to correlate JFK with in the above.

And so to then make the assumption there was some sort of "cultural shift" away from the general thought that a Mid-Atlantic accent somehow deemed one of "higher breeding" during the early-'60s and after JFK replaced Ike in the White House and that the manner in which JFK spoke helped this along, would be an incorrect assumption.

(...but hey dude, AT LEAST you admitted Eisenhower was "before your time", and so in essence admitting you really didn't know what you were talkin' about in this case)

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1 hour ago, slaytonf said:

Cary Grant's accent was BBC English.

As for fast-talking, you can't get any better than Lee Tracy.

Actually, I don't think Grant was BBC English, which I suppose one might call "RP" aka "Received Pronunciation." Grant's regional (Bristol) roots shone through his accent, I think. I believe what you refer to as BBC English is the accent that Ronald Colman (born in Richmond, Surrey, now part of Greater London) spoke.

Although of course today, BBC presenters are encouraged to speak in a variety of accents, even shockingly, Scottish.

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OH, and btw...I'LL now add another little "theory" oF MINE regarding all this.

Perhaps ANOTHER reason why the so-called "Mid-Atlantic" accent would seem to ultimately fall out of favor with the American Hoi polloi would be that it would be MY guess that those who spoke with that accent most likely have ALSO used that dumb and needless superfluous letter 'u' when spelling words such AS "favor"!

And so, it would finally dawn on more and more Americans, and okay, yes, perhaps JUST about the time of JFK's inauguration, that to INCLUDE that needlessly inserted letter 'u' in words such as "favor" and "color" and "labor" AND so many OTHER words in the Language, does not and NEVER did bestow NOR signify any sort of "higher breeding" and/or being "better educated" to those who spelled in that manner than it did for those Americans who did NOT insert that needless or superfluous letter 'u' in words such as these!

(...c'mon now...by now you folks around here HAD to know I'd "go here", now didn't YA?!)

LOL 

;)

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Btw AGAIN here, folks.

The very last person in American broadcasting who I recall possessed a definite "Mid-Atlantic" accent and who had quite a following in these Untied States decades after JFK had "left the building", would be Canadian Peter Jennings, and who would anchor the nationally televised ABC World News Tonight program from the late-'70s to the early-2000s.

(...but other than him, nope, can't think of anyone else since)

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41 minutes ago, Swithin said:

Actually, I don't think Grant was BBC English, which I suppose one might call "RP" aka "Received Pronunciation." Grant's regional (Bristol) roots shone through his accent, I think. I believe what you refer to as BBC English is the accent that Ronald Colman (born in Richmond, Surrey, now part of Greater London) spoke.

Although of course today, BBC presenters are encouraged to speak in a variety of accents, even shockingly, Scottish.

Although I would have to defer to those more intimately acquainted with the fine shadings of British accents, your observation that Mr. Grant's Bristolian roots showed through--his what?  His surficial public school accent.  And regardless of any nasality or twangs that coloured his speech, nevertheless it was of a class with the likes of Alistair Cooke and Glenda Jackson.  And it was that class of accent I was opposing in my comment to the pretension of Americans in their construct of the Mid-Atlantic accent.  Cary Grant did not speak with a Mid-Atlantic accent, he spoke with the standard public school accent, or BBC accent.

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1 hour ago, Swithin said:

Actually, I don't think Grant was BBC English, which I suppose one might call "RP" aka "Received Pronunciation." Grant's regional (Bristol) roots shone through his accent, I think. I believe what you refer to as BBC English is the accent that Ronald Colman (born in Richmond, Surrey, now part of Greater London) spoke.

*Although of course today, BBC presenters are encouraged to speak in a variety of accents, even shockingly, Scottish.

I have followed the BBC on radio and television here and abroad for more than 25 years.

In the last decade or so I can't help but notice that they do have some presenters and broadcasters who speak with such Regional accents that I cannot understand them. It would seem that if they are going to broadcast to the world that they would realize that they have to present a standardized version of their English.

I can't say if they're English, Irish or Scottish or Welsh or whatever; but some speak in simply an incomprehensible manner. However, I can't help but notice that the broadcasters they have from African backgrounds are very easy to understand and speak impeccably clear in the Queen's English.

I can understand that they're trying to encourage people to speak in their own Regional accents, but they should regulate those people to National or local broadcasts and not present them to the world.

 

BTW-- Cary Grant certainly does not speak English with an upper-class accent. You're right he's from Bristol and maybe he's picked a lot of that up there.

 I love the way he talks but it's definitely not posh.

 As a child I watched him in the movie " Sylvia Scarlett " and I think he had a cockney accent in that movie, which seemed to be his natural way of speaking to me.

 How he passed himself off as an American in all those movies I'll never know. But I guess that just proves he's a great actor.

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Okay guys, then answer me this. Especially YOU here Swithin, you anglophile, you

Why is it Brits persist in pronouncing my hometown of Los Angeles (that's "Los AN-gel-es") as "Los An-gel-LEES"?

AND, why do Brits persist in pronouncing the word taco (that's "TAH-co") as "TACK-o"???

James Corden, an otherwise very entertaining young man from the land of the superfluous-u and who has that late night program on CBS, does this ALL the damn time!!!

(...dude, Swithin...the next time you're over there, would you PLEASE spread the word they're sayin' those all wrong, OKAY???!!!)

;)

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8 hours ago, slaytonf said:

Although I would have to defer to those more intimately acquainted with the fine shadings of British accents, your observation that Mr. Grant's Bristolian roots showed through--his what?  His surficial public school accent.  And regardless of any nasality or twangs that coloured his speech, nevertheless it was of a class with the likes of Alistair Cooke and Glenda Jackson.  And it was that class of accent I was opposing in my comment to the pretension of Americans in their construct of the Mid-Atlantic accent.  Cary Grant did not speak with a Mid-Atlantic accent, he spoke with the standard public school accent, or BBC accent.

Interesting, but Grant did not go to or have a "public school" accent. Of course any good actor can do/learn accents, but Grant's is definitely not what we refer to as a public school accent. To associate it with class, one can certainly hear the working class roots come through when Grant speaks.

Today, actors' resumes in the UK list the accents that a particular actor can do. What we call the BBC accent is actually called "RP," i.e. "Received Pronunciation." That's what the BBC was trying to cultivate for many years, until relatively recently.

There is of course middle to upper RP. An MP who famously speaks in the latter manner is the MP Jacob Rees-Mogg:

https://news.sky.com/video/jacob-rees-mogg-no-10-has-lost-its-backbone-11430907

 

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